From Forest Bathing by Dr. Qing Li:
“Shizen - which translates as ‘nature’, or ‘naturalness’ - is one of the seven principles of Zen aesthetics. The idea behind shizen is that we are all connected to nature, emotionally, spiritually and physically; and that the more closely something relates to nature, the more pleasing it is, whether it’s a spoon, or a piece of furniture, or the way a house is decorated.”
This drawing is of a bouquet that a cottage guest left behind for us to enjoy. I love seeing how cottage guests bring bouquets and essential oils to the cottage, find leaves, sticks, acorns, and flowers at Spring Bird for the altar, and leave behind natural beauty like shells, seeds, or pinecones for the next visitor or for us. There is a sense of appreciation for nature’s beauty and its value in our lives.
Do you bring nature indoors through natural items, design, and decor? How does it make you feel?
I finished off my walking stick! I decided to woodburn the name with some basic design decorations, and I tied on a woven strap from a Peruvian purse for some color.
I was struggling to come up with a name. So, I turned to my Medicine Cards (by Jamie Sams and David Carson) for inspiration. I pulled the Badger card, which I tend to pull frequently. So, I decided to trust that I needed Badger medicine in my walks. Badger is about aggressiveness, but it is also about being an aggressive healer. Badger people do not give up. Sams writes, “Remember that Badger may be signalling a time when you can use your healing abilities to push ahead in life. Heal yourself by aggressively removing the barriers that don’t ‘grow corn’. Cut away the dead wood and use Badger’s aggression to seek new levels of expression.” Turns out that this is EXACTLY what I need right now. The cards always seem to know. Okay, good bye! Back to getting rid of the corn that does not grow!!!
A few weeks ago we dined with both sets of grandparents at Bleuroot restaurant in downtown Dundee, IL.
I have been so delighted to have Bleuroot as part of our local restaurant scene because Bleuroot’s mission is “To provide our community with a unique locally sourced farm-to-table dining experience where there food is always fresh and you leave feeling like family.”
Not only did we feel welcomed and comfortable dining near the flowing Fox River, but all of our dietary needs (vegetarian, egg free, gluten free, dairy free, and paleo) had fresh, delicious, and locally sourced meal options to choose from.
We left satisfied on ALL of the levels. Eating well is an important way we connect to nature and the Earth. If we are mindful of where our food comes from, how it is grown, how it is lovingly prepared, how we consciously choose to consume it, and with whom we dine with, we can do a great deal to change our bodily health, our community’s health, and our environmental health. Turns out, that eating lunch is no small affair. Thanks to Bleuroot for providing delicious and sustainable options.
I've written a bit about the fallen oaks that have traumatized my heart. I know intellectually that their falling literally makes way for new growth, but it is hard to let go of those who stand greatly around us.
So, I decided to honor one of the oaks by making a walking stick from its limb.
Making walking sticks are a resourceful and useful project, which many ages can participate in (as you will see below). I do believe that since we were children we have connection to sticks. There seems to be no greater toy. So, whether we need support while hiking, or a means to dismantle webs while, or just want to hold a great tree in your hand, find a stick and make it your own.
Below is Part One of preparing my walking stick. I want to give the wood some more time to dry before woodburning and finishing it.
First we hiked to where the tree, with two trunks had fallen.
Then, I chose a limb, which Pat cut down and trimmed with a chainsaw.
Back at home, I cleaned off the bark using a carving knife.
All cleaned up! I am letting it dry before sanding and woodburning it.
I enjoy the faces and marks that you discover by stirpping the bark.
Yesterday, Abe deided to make one for Pen. He chose a honeysuckle limb, and Pen made a friendship bracelet for it.
Shinrin-yoku or Forest Bathing is a practice of walking through the forest while engaging all of the senses as a means to sync our systems with nature. It is a form of forest medicine.
In his book “Forest Bathing”, Dr. Qing Li writes, “Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world. And when we are in harmony with the natural world we can begin to heal. Our nervous system can reset itself, our bodies and minds can go back to how they ought to be.”
I love this idea that we are coming home to ourselves in the woods.
What do you think?
Recently, I was fortunate to meet my Mom’s cousin Patti, and spend time learning about her childhood and her love of the river and living off of the land. Their home on the island was surrounded by shallow waters that offered fish, muskrat, and plenty of good stories remembered well by Patti.
By the time Patti was four, a dam upriver was destroyed, which caused their island to be flooded, house and farm destroyed. The Smith family was forced to move to the mainland, but chose to stay close to the river that fed them so well. They made their home in a small fisherman’s shack, which Patti’s son still owns today.
At age 83, Patti has decided to write her memoirs of growing up there for her grandchildren to know of her life. Despite growing up in poverty, she reports a life well-lived and rich in stories and experiences. She says she wouldn’t trade it for anything, and wishes her grandchildren had some of her skills - like poling a boat, and strength - like climbing a rope to her bedroom loft, and endurance - like surviving cold winters.
Some of her stories tell of her experience going to school in a one room country schoolhouse. Patti gave me permission to share her writing and also gave me permission to illustrate it. So, the following graphic essay is just that. I hope you enjoy it as I do. Patti’s spirit and memory is as crystal clear as the waters of the Fox River from her youth, and I am grateful for her generosity in sharing these stories.
Above is an excerpt from an excerpt from the Fall Issue of Woolgathering. Enjoy!
Learn more about Woolgathering and get your free sample issue here!
Spending time in nature can lead to many discoveries - some physical and others metaphysical. All are awesome.
It also seems the more time we spend outdoors, the better able we are to notice things that are out of place- like a feather dropped or a skull. These things will stick out to us like a sore thumb.
If it is not disruptive to the environment, we can ask the object if it wants to go home with us. You will know if it is right to take it home or if it is best to leave it.
Having a collection of natural objects helps us to learn about them. We can study them closely, handle them, and make comparisons between similar objects.
As you collect, you might want to note the date and location of each item. This information might help to better understand it.
Some objects, like my favorite natural item to collect, sticks, can be useful in other ways. A good stick can add stability to our hike and it is useful to swat away the occasional spiderweb.
Finally you may want to arrange the objects on a shelf, a tray, or fill a jar with them. Give honor to these objects and thank them for being part of your space and for helping you to better understand the world.
The concept of Biophilia originated with the biologist E. O. Wilson. Wilson believed that because we evolved in nature, we are deeply integrated with it, and so have a genetic urgency to connect with nature.
In his book, Forest Bathing, Dr. Qing Li writes with regard to Biophilia, “And this affinity for the natural world is fundamental to our health. Contact with nature as vital to our well-being as regular exercise and a healthy diet . . . and just as our health improves when we are in it, so our health suffers when we are divorced from it.”
What are your thoughts about biophilia? Do you feel divorced from nature?
Fox teaches us about camouflage. When we blend into our surroundings we can become keen observers. This is particularly necessary in nature when we want to observe wildlife without disturbing it, but I also like to blend in at parties. #introvert
This illustration is from the cover of the Fall Issue of Woolgathering.
Are you good at blending into your surroundings?
Learn more about Woolgathering, here.
Anna Lentz, artist, writer, and creativity coach who blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.